Pack your hiking boots, binoculars and fishing poles; adventure awaits you in Cimarron County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The Black Mesa is known for its picturesque scenes and terrain like no other in the state. Get in touch with nature on the historic secluded preserve.
Millions of years ago, lava flow from a now extinct volcano created the highest point in Oklahoma. The Black Mesa reaches 4,973 feet above sea level and is home to rare wildlife, scenic views and some of nature’s darkest skies.
“The mesa is located within the Black Mesa Nature Preserve on about 1,800 acres near Kenton, Okla.,” said Tucker Heglin, Black Mesa State Park manager. “The land is rather untouched as the majority of the land surrounding the mesa is state owned school land or privately owned ranch land.”
Visitors are welcome to take on the 4.2-mile hike from the base of the trailhead to the summit. Once reaching the top, hikers will find a granite obelisk marking their achievement of reaching the highest point in Oklahoma.
“The hike takes an average time of 4 hours,” Heglin said. “Benches are set every mile for folks to take breaks and enjoy the scenic vista.”
Heglin advises hikers to bring plenty of water as there is not a water hydrant along the hike to fill canteens.
“Of all the high points in the nation, the Black Mesa is considered a moderate hike,” Heglin said. “On a scale of one to 10 we are about a four. The length is the hardest part.”
Heglin said the tri-state marker for Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico lies just north of the mesa. East of the mesa are seven dinosaur tracks, another locally known attraction.
TCEC serves Kenton and surrounding areas where the Black Mesa State Park is located, 12 miles south of the Black Mesa Preserve.
“The park is open year-round,” Heglin said. “The Black Mesa hiking trail is open dawn to dusk. The park offers 25 RV sites and 23 tent sites for campers visiting the area.”
Black Mesa State Park surrounds Lake Carl Etling. The Department of Wildlife stocks the lake with small and largemouth bass, channel cat, mud cat and rainbow trout.
According to Heglin, the best time to travel to the Black Mesa for an enjoyable hike is late spring, early summer or fall. Fall is best for stargazing.
“We’re known for having one of the darkest skies in the country,” Heglin said. “Typically, late spring or fall is the best time to view the dark sky. Some areas in the park offer dark skies with no ambient light, perfect for stargazing.”
The Black Mesa is a great place to get away, Heglin said. The scenic beauty offers a great place to escape from the city for peace and quiet.
“Up until recently,” Heglin said, “you didn’t have cell service.”
Several different species of wildlife are found surrounding the Black Mesa. To name a few, there are mule and whitetail deer, turkey, bighorn sheep, antelope and the occasional bald eagle.
“You won’t be bothered when visiting the Black Mesa,” Heglin said. “You can go out to enjoy the trails, fishing and the natural beauty of the area. My last piece of advice is to fuel up before you leave Boise City on your way to Black Mesa country,” he said with a laugh.
Jody Risley, Cimarron Heritage Museum director in Boise City and TCEC member, describes the Black Mesa as a history book. The Black Mesa is a book with a spine of 50 miles in length, 50 to 60 feet thick and 1/4 to several miles wide. The Black Mesa is full of rich history dating back millions of years, according to Risley.
Risley said there are a couple of distinct rock formations around the Black Mesa known as Three Sisters or Wedding Party and the Old Maid with a silhouette of a woman’s side profile.
“You need to stop in at the museum and find out where to go and what to do,” Risley said. “There’s all kinds of wildlife and it’s a neat place to hike.”
The Cimarron Heritage Museum keeps maps and brochures on the Black Mesa for passersby to help plan out their trip.
“It’s a different kind of country than what you would see elsewhere in Oklahoma,” Risley said.
For more information, visit www.travelok.com.
Hana Kimberling, a regular Oklahoma Living contributor, is the communications specialist at TCEC.